Bleeding in the Gutter: Publishing Terminology

Publishing sometimes has its own language, and I’d like to share a few of the more interesting and unusual terms I’ve learned over the years.

bleed: This has nothing to do with blood! A photo or illustration bleeds if it extends past the edges of the book (whether top, side, or bottom—or all). A full-bleed image bleeds off all edges. There’s nothing wrong with images that bleed (or images that don’t bleed) as long as they’re an intentional part of the design. The whole reason images bleed is so that when the pages are printed and trimmed, the art will extend all the way to to the edge of the page. (We need that extra little 1/4” or so on the edge just in case the pages aren’t trimmed with complete precision.)

endpapers or end sheets: the pieces of paper that attach to the inside of a cover and come before the title page (or half-title page). Some books have printed ends, in which the end sheets are the same paper as the rest of the book and photos or illustrations are printed on them. Other books have colored ends or white ends, in which the end sheets are a heavier paper stock and have no printing on them.

gutter: the middle of a spread, where the two pages come together. If text or art is too close to the gutter, the reader will have trouble reading the text or seeing the full image. We often advise artists not to put important elements too close to the gutter. (This sounds obvious, but when the art comes on a flat sheet of paper or as a digital file, it’s easy to forget!)

half-title: the first page of a book; it often lists only the title. (The title page, by contrast, lists the title, subtitle, author, illustrator, and imprint.) Not all books have a half-title page.

spread: a left-hand and right-hand (verso and recto) page together. A 32-page book will have 15 spreads (plus pages 1 and 32, which face the endpapers).

For more comprehensive lists of publishing terms, check here and here.